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Trailblazing Women of the Georgian Era: The Eighteenth-Century Struggle for Female Success in a Man's World Paperback – 5 Mar 2018
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About the Author
This is Mike's ninth book, all of them about life in the eighteenth century. Previous books include In Bed with the Georgians Sex, Scandal & Satire published by Pen & Sword. Mike s interest in the Georgian period was inspired by a fascinating cache of papers left by his eighteenth century ancestors. He spends his time, when not writing, speaking on Georgian topics, both in England and abroad, and on cruise liners. He divides his time between homes in Spain and on the edge of Dartmoor.
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I thought it was an informative read but it did sometimes read as if the author felt that more women should have defied expectations. There was one point where the author states that women were later disadvantaged after "abstaining from business, largely due to their own volition in the 1700s". Speaking as a woman in today's society, even now with the gains that have been made, it is very difficult to swim against the tide. The childfree movement is one such example, where women who chose to remain childfree are sometimes vilified for their choice. I have some empathy for the women in those times - one can only imagine how much harder it would have been to stand out at a time when the law and social codes were both against you.
Thank you to Netgalley and publishers, Pen and Sword, for the opportunity to read an ARC. I am voluntarily giving an honest review.
The achievements of all of these women were stunning when you consider the world they lived in. As the author explains in the introduction, the structure of society, its laws and customs, automatically put women in a deeply subordinate position to men. 'Coverture', for instance, by which a woman’s legal existence was ‘incorporated and consolidated’ into that of her husband meant that in law a married woman was effectively not a person. The custom of primogeniture ensured that women were usually effectively disinherited. Marriage law shackled women in violent and unhappy marriages; they were at risk of losing their children if they left.
That women ran businesses, managed teams, influenced politicians, created, performed, gave birth, ran households and did a million other things should surprise no one. They have been doing so since the dawn of time. As Rendell is careful to explain, all the female achievers in the book had precursors and followers. Their work was often ‘painted over’ and forgotten, precisely because they were women. Perhaps what marks the Georgian era out is that despite the entrenched misogyny, legal disadvantage and reduced human rights that women faced things were beginning to shift. After all, an interval of just over 80 years separates the end of the Georgian era and the beginning of female suffrage. Even so, there remains, still, plenty more equality, of education and of recognition, to achieve.
Rendell’s writing style is light and easy to read without being simplistic, and the chapters follow a formula in which the lives of the women are set in context, followed by a section looking at the impact each had on her field and the path she beat for other women.
Interesting and lively. A good read.